Fortaleza de Valença

The Minho

Valença's fortaleza is in fact two fortresses, bristling with bastions, watchtowers, massive gateways and defensive bulwarks, connected by a single bridge. The old churches and Manueline mansions inside testify to the success of the fortifications against several sieges, some as late as the 19th century. The earliest fortifications date from the 13th-century reign of Dom Afonso III, although largely what you see today was built in the 17th century, its design inspired by the French military architect Vauban.

Zip past the tacky gift shops and towel merchants and follow the cobbled lanes to the far end of the larger northern fortress, which incorporates Dom Afonso’s original stronghold and contains almost everything else that’s of interest. From Praça da República bear right, then left, into Rua Guilherme José da Silva (which turns into Rua Dr Pedro Augusto Dias). On the left, opposite the post office, is the Casa da Eira, with a handsome Manueline window somewhat marred by a horrendous corrugated tin roof that peeks above the crenellated walls. The 14th-century Igreja de Santo Estevão, with its neoclassical facade, is at the end of the street. From the church, take a left and you'll see the 1st-century Roman milestone from the old Braga–Astorga road.

From the milestone continue north to the end of Rua José Rodrigues and the now-decrepit Romanesque parish church, Igreja de Santa Maria dos Anjos, dating from 1276. At the back is a tiny chapel with Romano-Gothic inscriptions on the outside. To the left of the parish church is the Capela da Misericórdia and beyond it the Pousada de São Teotónio.

But the best fun can be had rambling on and around the series of exterior walls. In fact, if you turn right by the pousada you’ll descend the atmospheric lane through one of the original gates, with a trickling stream running below and an impressive echo. Keep going and you’ll pass through several thick, mossy layers to the outside world.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby The Minho attractions

1. Igreja de Santo Estevão

0.05 MILES

This 14th-century edifice inside the fortaleza, with its neoclassical facade, is one of Valença's best preserved churches.

2. Casa da Eira

0.06 MILES

Opposite the post office, the Casa da Eira has a handsome Manueline window somewhat marred by a horrendous corrugated tin room that peeks above the…

3. Roman Milestone

0.06 MILES

This 1st-century Roman milestone inside the fortaleza is a remnant from the old Braga–Astorga road.

4. Igreja de Santa Maria dos Anjos

0.13 MILES

Dating from 1276, this now-decrepit Romanesque parish church inside the fortaleza has a tiny chapel at the back with Romano-Gothic inscriptions on the…

5. Catedral de Santa Maria

1.02 MILES

The highlight of the old town is the fortress-like Catedral de Santa Maria. Begun in the 12th century, it reflects a stoic Romanesque style in most of its…

6. Centro de Interpretación

3.58 MILES

The Parque Natural Monte Aloia's visitors centre stands 5km up from the PO340 on the road to the top of the Monte Aloia.

7. Parque Natural Monte Aloia

3.97 MILES

This 746-sq-km protected area covers the forest-clothed hill Monte Aloia (631m) which has several panoramic viewpoints and well-marked, not-too-demanding…

8. Palácio da Brejoeira


On the N101, 5km south of Monção, this grand early 19th-century neoclassical palace has been open to the public since 2010. Visits are by guided tour only…